Family Tree Maker 2012

Last week’s efforts to reenergize my research got a huge boost this week with the arrival of my copy of Family Tree Maker 2012. I have to admit, I had been lagging in updating my Family Tree Maker (FTM) files and really not utilizing it to its fullest. Since I do most of my searching from the search forms on, for me it was easiest to just attach the records to my online tree, and when I did need a report or advanced functionality from FTM, I’d import the file, append the date to the file name, and use older files as backups.

The auto-sync feature has solved that problem for me and I’m having a great time exploring all the great tools I’ve been neglecting. Now when I update my files online, with one click I can synchronize the data in my online tree, not only with Family Tree Maker, but with my iPhone as well. Wherever I happen to be working, all three will reflect the most current updates. Woot!

As I mentioned in last week’s article,  I’ve been going through the families in my tree and going person by person, starting with current generations, making sure I’ve attached all of the records I have been able to find and making notes for future research. It’s almost an “audit” of my tree, but much more fun because I am finding a ton of new clues and stories. There are some great tools in FTM that are going to help me with this process.

Getting Started
Once you’ve installed Family Tree Maker 2012, you’ll want to choose what file you want to use as your main database. Depending on where you entered most of your research, this may be your online tree at, or a Family Tree Maker file that lives on your computer.

Downloading from
Up until this new era of auto-sync, in order to make sure I didn’t have multiple trees with varying pieces of information, I made it a habit of always entering new data to my online tree. So that’s the tree I wanted to use in FTM 2012, so I selected the option to “Download from” One caveat: Make sure you don’t already have and older version of an FTM file with the same name or you’ll end up with duplicate trees and that can cause confusion. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

If you already have a file in FTM with the same name as your online tree, I recommend you rename either the online version or your Family Tree Maker file.

You can see the names of existing trees in the upper right-hand corner of the FTM screen. To change the name of one, right-click on the name of the file you want to change and select “Rename” from the drop-down menu.

To rename your online tree, go to the Trees tab and clink on the link to “Manage Tree” just under the name of the tree you want to rename, and then on the “Tree Info” page, just change the name.

If you’ve got varying degrees of information in the trees, you could import your tree into Family Tree Maker (again, with a different name), and then merge the two trees using the merge function on FTM, which can be found in the “File” menu. Merges can be a time-consuming process though so that’s something you’ll want to consider carefully. And of course, before undertaking a merge, it’s always a good idea to back up your files. For more on merging, see the Family Tree Maker Help files and search for “Merge Wizard.”

Downloading Your Tree from
Since I chose my tree to be my primary tree, in the “Plan” view, “New Tree” tab, I selected the option to “Download from Ancestry” and after being prompted to log in to, I was able to select the tree I wanted and click “Request Download.” You’ll then have a new file in Family Tree Maker that’s all synced up and ready for action.

Syncing Your Family Tree Maker Tree
If you do most of your work on Family Tree Maker, you’ll want to use that file. Just select the file from the list of trees in the upper right-hand corner, and then click on the button to “Upload and link to Ancestry…”

Once you’ve linked to Family Tree Maker, you can check the sync status in the “Plan” view. If your file is not in sync, it will let you know in the “Online Access” box and with a quick click of the “Sync Now” button, you’ll be current.

Adding Media
While trees are great for storing records, names, and dates, I like to really dig into the records I find and manipulate the information in a way that makes sense to me. For example, with my Kelly family, to sort out the numerous James Kellys in New York City directories, I used a spreadsheet to turn chronologically entered directories that seem random…

… into a report that makes more sense to me by sorting the data by occupation, address, and year.

I use spreadsheets to project ages in censuses, and in a number of other ways as well, but I haven’t been able to find a graceful way to add them to my online tree. With Family Tree Maker, I can link the file to the person it pertains to by going to the Person view and then selecting “Media,” and then “New,” and selecting the file from my computer.

There are two choices when you add media. You can add a copy of the file with a link to it or you can just link to it. I chose to just link to it so when I click through to it I can access the most recent version.

Once my file is added, I can attach it to other people in my tree through the Media view, by selecting the item, and then “New” in the right panel, “Link to Person,” and then selecting the person from the tree.

Stay tuned for more on the new Family Tree Maker 2012 in coming months, as we share more tips on how to get the most from this revolutionary update.


Juliana has been writing and editing newsletters for more than fifteen years.

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